About two dozen members of the community met Wednesday evening at the University of Minnesota Crookston to discuss the possibility of a new facility, tentatively named the “Northwest Regional Events Center”, that could house sports, entertainment and more. Guests were encouraged to “dream today” and think about money later.
After introductions by guests that included representatives from the City of Crookston, Crookston School District and School Board, Park Board, City Council, UMN Crookston and UMC Athletics, Early Childhood Family Education, local service clubs, media and community members, in which they shared the reasons why they were in attendance, the common theme came down to wanting to improve Crookston and make it a better place to live and play.
At the start of the meeting and throughout, everyone seemed to agree that the biggest needs were a turf-covered football field and new track. The Crookston High School track team has not had a home meet in Crookston in at least three years and a few people brought up their embarrassment that the UMC football team had to play their last few home games at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks due to the weather and field conditions.
UMN Crookston Director of Career Development, Outreach and Engagement Michelle Christopherson mentioned, at one point, there was a “Phase 2” planned for the Crookston Sports Center that was never completed that was to be built west of the CSC and include turf, meeting space, basketball courts and more.
“When we pushed for fundraising of the Crookston Sports Center, there were two phases,” Christopherson explained. “There were a couple dozen people that were spearheading that.”
After Parks & Recreation Director Scott Riopelle mentioned the city saved around six figures by not plumbing the south locker rooms at the CSC, School Board Chair Frank Fee said there’s a lot of wasted space now at the CSC and if the city hadn’t got the $10 million from the state from the flood money that allowed them to move the arena that the CSC wouldn’t even be there.
“Lessons learned is never cut back,” Fee continued. “We cut back on gym space at the high school and it’s hurting us now; In the auditorium we saved money by not making a center aisle. We’re always cutting.”
“Find a way and do it right so we don’t have to keep going back and expanding,” added School Board member Tim Dufault, referring to the proposed new facility.
Around the room, after the open discussion, each table of guests wrote their “dream facility” ideas and locations on paper and later shared with the group. Ideas included:
• Being able to host tournaments
• Additional conference rooms
• Walking track for seniors
• Football and soccer field with a track around it in a sports bubble
• Basketball, volleyball, tennis courts
• Rock climbing walls
• Gymnastics, dance and yoga spaces
• Daycare center
• Batting cages
• Indoor playground
• Training area for sports medicine
• Weight room or acceleration area
• Therapy pool with zero-depth entry
• Wedding space with catering kitchen
• Moving the senior center to a new facility
• Liquor license for new facility
• Bleachers that are “safe” and “adequate”
• Full-service locker rooms
• Full-time staff for new facility
• Place to let kids run
• Fine arts performances
Then, the conversation shifted to what the actual immediate needs are and Parks & Recreation Supervisor Scott Butt said the “number one thing” they should look at right now is the short-term and then the long-term.
“How do we fix the short-term and get to the long-term?” Butt asked. “We want all these things, how do fix the problem while working on the long-term?”
“If there’s a possibility to looking at turf at Widseth (Field) while we work on our long-term goal; To have more than one turf field in this town is not a bad idea,” he added.
Crookston City Council Member and Assistant Mayor Dale Stainbrook slightly disagreed saying he was “nervous” about the short term.
“What we’re looking at is we won’t have a quality product if we do short term,” Stainbrook suggested. “What happens then is you lose your mojo, you lose your interest. Do it right.”
Dufault agreed with Stainbrook saying they should “shoot for the moon” and not to “sell ourselves short.”
The next step, the group felt, is to form a committee for the sole purpose of planning and working on the NW Regional Events Center. One piece of the project’s mission is to attract new people to the city and keep them here.